Rosie Fleeshman is the youngest member of Manchester’s First Family Of Theatre. Her mum Sue Jenkins and her dad David Fleeshman are both well-known from years of TV and theatre, while her brother Richard is something of a musical theatre star these days, with leading roles in Ghost: The Musical and Legally Blonde. Meanwhile, sister Emily is a successful actress and businesswoman.
But 24-year-old Rosie, who has been working as an actress since she appeared in Peter Pan at Salford’s Lowry at the age of ten, insists that writing her funny, thoughtful and immensely brave one-woman show Narcissist In The Mirror “sort of came out of nowhere really”, following her graduation from drama school two years ago and “floating about a bit, waiting for work”.
She says: “I had a small existential crisis early last year and I booked a one-way ticket to Bangkok. A week later I was in Bangkok and I spent seven months there writing in my diary. I’d never put pen to paper before and that was the only thing I was writing. Then I came across poetry that someone had shared on social media. So, I started writing, back in November. The poetry started taking more of a form and the play just sort of organically happened.
“It started out as a cathartic thing, very much just for me. It’s not me. It’s not my story. She’s very much a character, away from myself. But there is a lot of me in it.”
Now the show, directed by mum Sue, is set to be one of the headline offerings at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe after its initial outing at the new 53Two theatre space near HOME. There may have been a pretty glittery audience at the show and quite a few in-crowd chuckles at the mentions of the character’s slightly scary mum “Sue”, but the standing ovation at the end was palpably sincere and heartfelt. This is a genuinely impressive piece of work which lays bare the insecurities and contradictions of pretty much any working actor and also confronts such uniquely millennial anxieties as the perils of internet dating, being “just a little psychotic”, and, not least, the importance of correct grammar.
Rosie is alone on stage for the whole time, mostly wearing nothing more than a dressing gown, a pretty daunting experience for any actor. But one of the interestingly ambitious aspects of the structure of the piece is how her character will start delivering a poem, almost without you noticing.
“It is almost like a musical in that she’ll be talking normally and then go off into a poem. I’m using the same artistic license,” she agrees. “I never minded poetry but it wasn’t something that floated my boat. Now I’ve fallen in love with poetry.
“What interested me, what turned these poems into a 60-minute show, is that they were all looking at my own flaws. It is intense but I’m hoping it’s funny as well, because the character doesn’t take herself too seriously. It’s poignant in moments, the revelation of looking at yourself in the mirror. I think a lot of people don’t ever really learn to do that 100 per cent. My trip away made me take a sharp look at myself.”
She adds: “Standing back from me as a young person, thinking that everything would work out and maybe realising that it will not all pan out the way I thought it would. That maybe I wasn’t necessarily as great a person as I thought I was and turning that into a story.
“It’s very much about the millennials, my generation. We feel very entitled but we are a little bit confused as well. The world is telling us we have never had it easier and yet we are struggling.”
By Kevin Bourke, Theatre Editor
The Greater Manchester Fringe runs from July 1-31, 2017. Narcissist In The Mirror, written and performed by Rosie Fleeshman, is on July 15 and 16 at the King’s Arms, Salford.